European Union (EU) countries have announced plans to slash tourist numbers by a third, as the continent struggles to recover from a brutal flu pandemic.
The EU, which includes Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria, announced the “Brexit” rule for all foreign travel in Europe on Monday.
The directive is the latest in a string of moves by the bloc to curb tourism.
In February, it banned the use of mobile phones in public spaces, and introduced tougher security checks at borders, airports and trains.
The UK, Ireland and the Netherlands announced plans for the first time in more than 20 years to reduce tourism to a maximum of 25,000 visitors a day by 2025.
The EU’s “Brexit 2025” rule is meant to reduce tourist numbers to 15,000 by 2025, while countries in the southern region of Portugal, Spain and Italy have proposed a minimum of 13,000.
But the travel ban on the use and sale of mobile phone devices is likely to have a more immediate impact on the European economy, which is already reeling from a sharp fall in the number of visitors from China.
In January, the International Trade Commission (ITC) said it had identified a surge in Chinese holidaymakers arriving in Europe.
China’s total annual tourism spending rose 13% in the first half of this year, to a record $16.7 billion, according to the Chinese Tourism Council.
In November, the European Union launched a travel ban to stop China from exporting products to Europe, but the new rules have sparked outrage in China.
China also plans to increase its annual tourism revenues by nearly 4% next year, and its state-owned airline said it would raise the minimum age of entry for foreign tourists from 15 to 17 by 2019.
The travel ban was backed by many European politicians, who said the EU should have been doing more to tackle the problem of China’s tourism.
“The fact that this has been imposed so quickly after the EU-China relations reached a critical juncture is deeply concerning,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement after the ban was announced.
Germany has long been a key tourist destination for China.
Its capital Beijing is the second-biggest city in the world.
In June, China was accused of smuggling nearly $1 billion worth of goods into Germany through a network of tunnels, using a Chinese-made tunnel to cross into Germany.
China is also under investigation by the EU over claims of illegal migrant smuggling and corruption.
In July, the EU’s top official in charge of trade in goods and services warned that China was “going to be a global trade giant” if the EU did not act.
“China has always had the potential to be one of the largest tourism destinations in the EU.
But now, its potential is even bigger, with more and more people traveling to Europe in order to spend money,” said Udo Eltringham, a member of the European Parliament and former head of the EU delegation in China for three years.
Eltringheim told The Associated Press that he was “very disappointed” by the decision, but that “the consequences are far more severe than I would have thought.”
The EU’s Brexit rule has drawn ire from many in China, who see it as an attempt to curb their tourism, which accounts for about 4% of its gross domestic product.
In the past, Beijing has accused the EU of being too lenient with China on trade issues.
The Chinese government, however, has said the ban is needed to protect the country’s sovereignty.
China is currently a party to a U.N. treaty banning trade with third countries, including the EU, the U.S., Canada and Japan.